Trio of big name pitchers struggles in blowout loss

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - The games down here don’t count, so the Nationals could afford to brush off tonight’s 11-0 trouncing at the hands of a split-squad Cardinals team as insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

And that’s probably a fair reaction to a blowout loss on March 5. Really, what conclusions can reasonably be drawn from a game like this?

Doolittle-Delivers-Blue-NLCS-Sidebar.jpgStill, it had to be at least a little concerning for Davey Martinez to watch three of his most important pitchers get roughed up by a makeshift St. Louis lineup. Patrick Corbin allowed three runs during his three-inning start (all of them scoring in the top of the second). Sean Doolittle allowed three runs during the top of the fifth. And Daniel Hudson was beaten around for four more runs in the top of the seventh.

“Today we struggled a little bit,” Martinez said. “Location was not very good.”

Doolittle’s and Hudson’s struggles perhaps shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Each was making only his second appearance of the spring, each purposely held back after taking on so much work last October.

Doolittle, who tossed a scoreless inning against the Mets in his 2020 debut four days ago, never found his groove tonight. He gave up a sharp single to Edmundo Sosa on his very first pitch, then a towering home run to Tommy Edman two pitches later. His fastball, which should be in the mid-90s come the regular season, topped out at 90 mph.

“I still believe it’s early for those guys,” Martinez said. “I’ve seen Doo last year come out and throw 87. He’s up to 90 already, which is kind of nice, topping 91. Some of these guys are down (velocity-wise), but they’re creeping up a little bit.”

Hudson has now slogged through a pair of rough outings to begin his spring. He gave up two runs on three hits Monday to the Marlins, then watched as four consecutive Cardinals backups recorded hits tonight, capped by Justin Williams’ two-run homer.

“We’ve got to keep getting them out there and get their work in,” Martinez said. “I talked to Huddy a little bit, and his location was not there. He left too many balls over the middle of the plate.”

Corbin’s start did feature some actual positives. He pitched a pair of scoreless innings sandwiched around a laborious, three-run top of the second that included back-to-back doubles and then a two-run homer by Andrew Knizner.

More impressive were the five strikeouts Corbin recorded, four of those coming via his trademark slider. Also impressive were the multiple curveballs he threw for strikes, perhaps a sign of things to come this season.

Corbin essentially was a two-pitch starter last year. A full 91 percent of his offerings were either fastballs or sliders. He threw his curveball only 3.6 percent of the time, his changeup a bit more at 5.8 percent. Now he’s trying to incorporate them more, hoping it helps force opposing hitters to consider more possibilities when they step in to face him and not sit on his bread-and-butter fastball-slider combo.

“Just adjust their eyes (with) something slower,” the left-hander said. “Keep them off balance, that’s what pitching’s all about. It’s always good to have multiple pitches you can throw in multiple counts. That’s just what we’re trying to work on.”

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